Grandiosity Hangover and Narcissistic Baiting
By: Dr. Sam Vaknin
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The grandiose fantasies of the narcissist inevitably and invariably clash with his drab, routine, and mundane reality. We call this constant dissonance the Grandiosity Gap. Sometimes the gap is so yawning that even the narcissist - however dimly - recognizes its existence. Still, this insight into his real situation fails to alter his behaviour. The narcissist knows that his grandiose fantasies are incommensurate with his accomplishments, knowledge, status, actual wealth (or lack thereof), physical constitution, or sex appeal - yet, he keeps behaving as though this were untrue.
The situation is further exacerbated by periods of relative success in the narcissist's past. Has-been and also-ran narcissists suffer from a Grandiosity Hangover. They may have once been rich, famous, powerful, brilliant, or sexually irresistible - but they no longer are. Still, they continue to behave as though little has changed.
The balding, potbellied, narcissist still courts women aggressively. The impoverished tycoon sinks deeper into debts, trying to maintain an unsustainable and lavish lifestyle. The one-novel author or one-discovery scholar still demands professional deference and expects attention by media and superiors. The once-potent politician maintains regal airs and holds court in great pomp. The wizened actress demands special treatment and throws temper tantrums when rebuffed. The ageing beauty wears her daughter's clothes and regresses emotionally as she progresses chronologically.
Human collectives - firms, nations, clubs - develop Grandiosity Hangovers as easily and as frequently as do individuals. It is not uncommon to come across a group of people who still live in a bygone buy glorious past. This mass pathology is self- reinforcing. Members feed on each other's delusions, pretensions, and lies. Ostrich-like, they bury their collective head in the sand of time, harking back to happier moments of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence.
The Grandiosity Hangover and the Grandiosity Gap are the two major vulnerabilities of the narcissist. By exploiting them, the narcissist can be effortlessly manipulated. This is especially true when the narcissist is confronted with authority, finds himself in an inferior position, or when his Narcissistic Supply is deficient or uncertain.
"Here are a few of the things the narcissist finds devastating:
Any statement or fact, which seems to contradict his inflated perception of his grandiose self. Any criticism, disagreement, exposure of fake achievements, belittling of 'talents and skills' which the narcissist fantasizes that he possesses, any hint that he is subordinated, subjugated, controlled, owned or dependent upon a third party. Any description of the narcissist as average and common, indistinguishable from many others. Any hint that the narcissist is weak, needy, dependent, deficient, slow, not intelligent, naive, gullible, susceptible, not in the know, manipulated, a victim.
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The narcissist is likely to react with rage to all these and, in an effort to re-establish his fantastic grandiosity, he is likely to expose facts and stratagems he had no conscious intention of exposing.
The narcissist reacts with narcissistic rage, hatred, aggression, or violence to an infringement of what he perceives to be his entitlement.
Narcissists believe that they are so unique and that their lives are so cosmically significant that others should defer to their needs and cater to their every whim without ado. The narcissist feels entitled to special treatment by unique individuals, over and above the regular person.
Any insinuation, hint, intimation, or direct declaration that the narcissist is not special at all, that he is average, common, not even sufficiently idiosyncratic to warrant a fleeting interest will inflame the narcissist.
Add to this a negation of the narcissist's sense of entitlement - and the combustion is inevitable. Tell the narcissist that he does not deserve the best treatment, that his needs are not everyone's priority, that he is boring, that his needs can be catered to by an average practitioner (medical doctor, accountant, lawyer, psychiatrist), that he and his motives are transparent and can be easily gauged, that he will do what he is told, that his temper tantrums will not be tolerated, that no special concessions will be made to accommodate his inflated sense of self, that he is subject to court procedures, etc. - and the narcissist will lose control.
The narcissist believes that he is the cleverest, far above the madding crowd. If contradicted, exposed, humiliated, berated ('You are not as intelligent as you think you are', 'Who is really behind all this? It takes sophistication which you don't seem to have', 'So, you have no formal education', 'You are (mistake his age, make him much older) ... sorry, you are ... old', 'What did you do in your life? Did you study? Do you have a degree? Did you ever establish or run a business? Would you define yourself as a success?', 'Would your children share your view that you are a good father?', 'You were last seen with a Ms. ... who is (suppressed grin) a DOMESTIC (in demeaning disbelief)'.
I know that many of these questions cannot be asked outright in a court of law. But you can hurl these sentences at him during the breaks, inadvertently during the examination or deposition phase, etc."
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